This is the World Organic News for the week ending the 11th of March 2019.
Jon Moore reporting!
Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!
The decline of honeybees from Colony Collapse Disorder to pesticide effects has been well documented over the past decade or so. The news has been all bad but there is hope!
From the blog Coolbees comes a post: Slovenia’s Bee Protections.
Unlike the worldwide trend of bee population decline, there is one nation that stands out- Slovenia. This is no accident, and bees are incredibly well protected within the country. Where countries like the US and France have seen over 30% losses in winter of 2018, Slovenia has maintained beneath the acceptable loss of under 20%. Slovenia is an oddity worldwide, and an outlier in terms of these results.
This is enough to peak my interest. We live in a big world despite the so called shrinking global village understanding of the interwebs types. This means different polities can conduct different approaches to problems. What works can be spread across the rest of the world. Unfortunately the converse can happen too. Think of the spread of industrial ag, feedlots and so on. More of that later in our second post for this week.
Back to the bees. Slovenia has a set of protections in place as well as a mindset towards bees. It’s about getting people involved. A distributed beekeeping community ensures a variety of approaches and localised losses and gains, to be fair. The down side of bee losses far outweighs the positives of gains. If only a few people increase their honey production the world still functions. If only a few areas lose their hives, the world still functions.
…most of the beekeepers in Slovenia aren’t commercial or run by larger companies. In fact, even the nation’s prime minister keeps bees, and one in 200 Slovenian citizens keep them as well. The government offers courses for free on how to start beekeeping, as well as distributing treatments to prevent varroa mites….
Without huge commercial domination, a loss of hives for a family, while not good for them, does not destroy the pollination services of large part of the agricultural economy. The system still functions. In places where commercial activity dominates pollination services, a blow to the collective hives in one location like the Californian almond groves, can be catastrophic.
It’s not just the distributed colonies and “egalitarian” ownership of said hives, the education and extension support by the Slovenian government is critical. Given the distributed nature of beekeeping, urban hives are quite common. This, of course, raises the question of swarming.
Inside the capital, Ljubljana, a rapid bee response team consisting of seven people is on call to prevent swarms. Despite the capital being noticeably urban, there are around 4,500 beehives in the city alone, making it essential for them to prevent swarming bees from impacting the population.
A thoughtful set of policies, a distributed bee population and a good news story. I don’t get to report these often enough.
Now back to the nasty realities of a world drenched in glyphosate over the past 40 odd years. From the site Global Glyphosate Study comes a post entitled: Global Glyphosate Study Pilot Phase Shows Reproductive and Developmental Effects at ‘Safe’ Dose.
Now there’s a title to chill the marrow.
A new study (1) has found that exposure to glyphosate-based herbicides (GBHs), including Roundup, caused reproductive and developmental effects in both male and female rats, at a dose level currently considered safe in the U.S. (1.75 mg/kg bw/day).
Let that sink in for a moment: exposure to glyphosate-based herbicides (GBHs) caused reproductive and developmental effects in both male and female rats, at a dose level currently considered safe in the U.S.
There is a problem with most toxicity tests. The process works this way. A new substance needs to be tested. It is isolated and not tested in connection with other substances already in the environment. A time frame is established, say 90 days and dose level. Two groups of rats are selected for the trial. One group acts as the control and receives the standard lab diet. The other group receives the substance, usually in their food. Once the 90 days or whatever was selected, is up. Both groups are checked for changes in physiology. Anything noted is recorded and the rats are euthanized and incinerated. So if there were long term effects, there is no way to know, ever. Until the substance is loose in the environment.
In this research, the glyphosate was administered from day 6 in utero up to 13 weeks of age. Again long term effects, intergenerational were not tested for. But the results are still terrifying.
Exposure to GBHs was associated with androgen-like effects, including a statistically significant increase of anogenital distance (AGD) in males and females, delay of first estrous and increased testosterone in females.
To just unpack that a little for those not across the language. The anogential distance is:
Quoting from the Wikipedia post:
…the distance from the midpoint of the anus to the genitalia, the underside of the scrotum or the vagina. It is considered medically significant for a number of reasons, in both humans and animals, including sex determination and as a marker of endocrine disruptor exposure.
This means the body displays damages to the endocrine system through the physical dimensions and location of the genitals and anus. The other point from the study was increased testosterone in females and the delay in estrus. Now in lab rats this is not particularly a problem but if the same effects are being experienced by livestock, reproduction will be affected. Who knows if this is an accumulated effect over the lifetime of the stock or even if it affects the DNA and is passed onto offspring. I’m not talking Lamarckian effects but changes to the gene switches over generations.
But this study is one a number underway and completed.
This is the fourth in a series of related papers (5) from the pilot phase of the Global Glyphosate Study. The first results of the pilot phase of the study were presented to the European Parliament on May 16th 2018. The previous peer reviewed publications show that exposure to GBHs leads to other effects, including altering the gut microbiota of rats in early development, particularly before the onset of puberty.
Imagine that! Exposure to glyphosate can alter gut microbiota. All these studies have been in controlled situations. Imagine a situation where a farm worker with poor literacy skills, working alone, mixed the poison to the wrong percentages. Or even increased the concentration in the belief it would “work” better. I’m sure there are many individuals who have been exposed to far greater concentration of glyphosate than the US recommended safe level.
Moving away from all pesticides, herbicides and fungicides is a priority. The usual screams of people will starve, are complete nonsense. The world transport systems are sufficient to move food surpluses to food shortages. It’s just a matter of political will. That’s why there’s a famine in Yemen at present.
It will take time to change farming systems from industrial/chemical to regenerative but it can be done. Given the amount of money flowing around the EU and the US farm subsidy schemes, it is just a matter of political will.
We need to get this started. We needed to get it started twenty years ago but today is better than tomorrow.
And on that note I’ll draw this episode to a conclusion.
Remember: Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!
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Thank you for listening and I’ll be back next week.
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Slovenia’s Bee Protections
Global Glyphosate Study Pilot Phase Shows Reproductive and Developmental Effects at ‘Safe’ Dose
The Ramazzini Institute 13-week pilot study glyphosate-based herbicides administered at human-equivalent dose to Sprague Dawley rats: effects on development and endocrine system